Saints running backs Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara are getting along famously – at least by appearances.
They stand side-by-side in the locker room for joint postgame interviews Ramon Humber Jersey , celebrating one another’s successes. And they stood together on the sideline – as fans – at the Sugar Bowl earlier this week.
”I know there’s definitely egos” in pro sports, Kamara said this week as the Saints prepared to open the playoffs Sunday against Carolina. ”I think people questioned it a lot, like, `Are they really that close? They seem close, but are they really that close?’ But it’s really one of those things where we’re actually close and we care about each other and we care about more than just the football player part of it. I genuinely care about the dude.”
It’s rare for one team to have two running backs capable of gaining 1,500 or more yards from scrimmage, as each did this season. In fact, that’s never happened before.
But in professional sports, contracts are based largely on production, and players at the same position are competing for opportunities to stack up yards and touchdowns. That would apply more so now to Ingram, whose contract expires after the 2018 season.
Kamara was well aware that jealousy could have eroded chemistry in New Orleans’ backfield as he – a rookie – blossomed quickly and became a focal point of the offense. After all, Ingram was a 2009 Heisman Trophy winner for an Alabama national title squad and a 2011 first-round draft choice by New Orleans who made his first Pro Bowl when Kamara was playing for a junior college in 2014.
Instead, what Kamara said he found in Ingram was a consummate teammate – and a friend who has eased his transition to life as a pro and in a new city.
”It’s not just one of those things where we’re cool in pads … where it’s like, we got a game so we’ve got to function,” Kamara said. ”We’re cool, like, off the field, like, for real – like Rasmus Ristolainen Jersey , legit.”
Their cooperation not only has been rewarded individually, but has played no small role in propelling the Saints to their first playoff appearance in four seasons.
Ingram had the best – and perhaps healthiest – season of his career. His 1,124 yards rushing, 416 yards receiving, 12 total touchdowns and 1,540 yards from scrimmage were all career highs and he was named to his second Pro Bowl.
Kamara, meanwhile, put up numbers worthy of rookie-of-the-year consideration: 728 yards and eight TDs rushing, 826 yards and five TDs receiving, and a 106-yard kickoff return for a 14th total touchdown.
Ingram said sharing the workload might have helped him not just stay healthy, but also fueled his competitive juices. Ingram’s 230 carries were at least 42 fewer than any of the four players who rushed for more yards than he did. His 4.9 yards per carry matched that of yardage leader Kareem Hunt of Kansas City. Kamara, who rushed only 120 times, averaged a league-best 6.1 yards per carry.
”Being fresh … obviously has benefits for both of us being healthy at this point in the season,” Ingram said. ”We just thrive off each other. There’s no animosity. Everything’s genuine. I want him to do well. He wants me to do well.
”I want to be the best. He wants to be the best. That’s what we work for and that’s why we push each other,” Ingram added. ”That’s just healthy competition. That’s the reason why we’re at where we’re at now.”
As their yards and touchdowns piled up, they always appeared eager to celebrate one another’s success, even speaking to reporters in tandem. That was refreshing to the linemen who block for them.
”It’s just a nice cohesiveness that they’ve had,” left tackle Terron Armstead said. ”Their success has had a direct correlation to the success of the team.”
On New Year’s Day, Ingram went to the Sugar Bowl to watch Alabama defeat Clemson in a College Football Playoff semifinal. Standing next to Ingram on the sidelined was Kamara Adolphus Washington Jersey , who had begun his college career at Alabama, but dropped out and later landed at Tennessee, one of Alabama’s Southeastern Conference rivals.
”Everybody just looks at me and him because we’re in the same backfield. We compete for carries and compete for touches,” Ingram said. ”But at the end of the day, I just want him to do well. I just want him to be the best he can be and he wants the same for me. We’re just there for each other. That’s my dude. If he needed me outside of football, we’re brothers for life.”
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Four Houston Astros starting pitchers have won at least eight games this season. They are Gerrit Cole, Charlie Morton, Justin Verlander and Lance McCullers.
The lone exception is left-hander Dallas Keuchel, the 2015 American League Cy Young Award winner. Keuchel, who pitches Saturday against the Kansas City Royals, is 3-8 with a 3.71 ERA in 14 starts this season.
Keuchel has allowed 90 hits, including a dozen home runs, and walked 32 while striking out 81 in 82 1/3 innings. He has a 3-1 career record against the Royals in six starts. He had a no-decision against them last year, allowing two hits and one run in seven innings.
If Keuchel is the weak link in the Astros’ rotation, that is a fearsome five.
“The Gerrit Cole addition was great and Verlander was a great addition to them last year,” Royals manager Ned Yost said. “The thing that is so important is they make these deals in hopes they can get them over the hump with a World Series, and it did.
“They’ve got a fantastic rotation. They’ve got a fantastic group of young talented, athletic players. They’re a good team. They’re a tough match.”
The Astros (46-25) reminded the Royals just how good they are with a 7-3 victory on Friday night in the opener of a three-game series at Kauffman Stadium. Evan Gattis Doug Flutie Jersey , who drove in five Houston runs on Tuesday and Wednesday in Oakland, hit a sixth-inning grand slam.
The Royals (22-47) took a hit besides in the loss column when starting right fielder Jorge Soler left with a fractured first left metatarsal in the sixth inning. He stumbled out of the blocks while grounding out. It is the same foot Soler fouled a ball off last Friday in Oakland and then did not play again until Tuesday.
Yost said he did not know if the injuries are related. He said Soler would be out for an extended period. The Royals will make a roster move Saturday with Soler, who was on crutches in the clubhouse after the loss, headed for the disabled list.
Both clubs made roster moves Friday. Astros left-hander Reymin Guduan was placed on the paternity list. They recalled infielder Tyler White from Triple-A Fresno, where he was hitting .338 with a 1.023 OPS in 62 games.
The Royals purchased the contract of right-handed reliever Brandon Maurer from Triple-A Omaha. In his past seven outings, he ran off a scoreless streak of 12 2/3 innings while striking out 10 and holding opponents to a .163 batting average with one extra-base hit.
The Royals optioned rookie right-hander Jason Adam to Omaha. Adam had allowed six home runs, including a grand slam Wednesday, in 15 1/3 innings.
Left-hander Danny Duffy, who is 3-6 with a 3.28 ERA in 14 starts, is the Royals’ probable starter Saturday. He is coming off his best start of the season, tossing seven scoreless innings last Saturday in Oakland, allowing three hits and striking out a career high 10.
Duffy is 2-2 with a 4.50 ERA in eight outings, four of them starts, against the Astros. He owns a 2.08 ERA in his last two starts against the Astros.
The Royals will attempt to snap a four-game losing streak. They have dropped 10 of their last 11 and are 10-24 at home. They’ve scored just 26 runs in 13 games in June, when they are hitting .183.
The Astros have the best road record (27-11) in the majors. They have won their last eight road games, three shy of the club record set last year. They have logged at least a dozen hits in five straight games, the second longest streak in franchise history and trailing only a seven-game streak set in 2007.